Around the Region

Plan would create certificates of origin for genetic resources

Like fine wines, genetic resources from the world’s most biologically diverse countries may soon get their own certificates of origin. Experts meeting in Lima, Peru, last month recommended a certification system to keep individuals or companies from freely patenting genetic material without compensating the source country. The recommendation will be presented in October at the next meeting of a committee negotiating an international framework for access to genetic resources and benefit-sharing under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). That committee’s task is to find ways to reduce the loss of biological diversity by 2010 and ensure more equitable distribution of the benefits of the use of genetic resources. “The certificate would be issued by national authorities in the countries that provide the...

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New U.S. law would enlist fungi in war on coca crops

U.S. legislation requiring government scientists to study the use of toxic fungi on illegal drug crops is drawing widespread opposition from environmentalists and even U.S. government agencies. The law, signed on Dec. 29 by President George Bush, requires testing of the efficacy and environmental impacts of mycoherbicides—soil-borne, plant-killing fungi. Environmentalists fear it is a first step in the use of biological agents against coca and poppy plantations in Colombia and other nations. Critics from dozens of non-governmental groups in the United States and other countries argue the fungi would threaten legal crops as well as biodiversity. They also say the use of it would amount to a violation of the United Nations Biological Weapons Convention of 1975. Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador...

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Mega-pipeline plan draws green worries, skepticism

After more than a year of discussions, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez signed an agreement Jan. 19 with his Brazilian and Argentine counterparts in Brasília to begin work next year on a US$20-$25 billion, 6,200-mile (10,000-km) natural gas pipeline stretching from Venezuela to Argentina. Though the route has yet to be defined, Venezuelan officials say the pipeline probably would carry gas from the Gulf of Cariaco off the northern coast of Venezuela, across Venezuela’s Guayana region and the Brazilian Amazon and terminate in Argentina near the Río de la Plata. It would expand markets for Venezuela’s enormous gas reserves into Brazil and Argentina, and Chávez claims it would create 1 million jobs throughout South America. “The political decision is made,” Chávez told...

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